Received Into the Number: A Theology of Adoption – Part I

I have a confession to make. When I was growing up, there was a time when I thought adopted children were not “real” sons and daughters in their family. This was in the 1970s and 80s when adoption tended to be more of a private matter. Whenever an adopted child would act out or rebel, the whispered excuses would quickly follow about how the adopted child wasn’t “really” the parents’ son or daughter. The message was clear. Adopted children were not legitimately part of the family. I am ashamed to admit I ever bought into that lie.

Years later my wife and I were providentially called to adopt our precious forever children. First came our daughter who we adopted at birth. Then came our son at 6 months old while he was in foster care with a pastor’s family. Next, we prayed for a sibling group. I work in in law enforcement and my wife is a social worker. Broken families and children in need are inescapable everyday realities that we could not shield our children from if we wanted to. In particular, our daughter prayed desperately for sisters.

To our complete shock, God sent us 3 girls and 2 boys in foster care. We cautiously took each next step as it came and eventually ran out of reasons to say no. So yeah, there are 7 children in our home right now. Did I mention I’m an introvert? Don’t tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor.

It was partly through the earthly or “horizontal” institution of adoption that I became more and more interested in the spiritual or “vertical” doctrine of adoption. What is adoption? Question 37 of the Baptist Catechism answers it this way. (Ok, for my paedo friends, it’s also Question 34 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism.)

Adoption is an act of God’s free grace whereby we are received into the number and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God.

(1 John 3:1),(John 1:12; Rom. 8:14-17)

In this series, we will look at what Scripture has to say about adoption. What does God’s concern for the orphans in the Old Testament tell us? Are there examples of adoption in the Old Testament? What does Paul mean when he says believers are adopted by God? Why has there been so little focus on adoption in most churches today?

Even if God has not called you to adopt or foster a child, my prayer is that this series will provide you with a renewed appreciation for what the Father has accomplished through the Son by the power of the Spirit.

Leave a Comment